Diversity. (Representational Image: pixabay.com)
Dimapur | December 13
“I want to visit the market everyday if no one shouts or throw stones at me”, is the response of one transgender (TG as they called themselves), when asked to imagine the one thing they want to do in a society where they will be accepted and treated equally.
In a landmark judgment in September 2018, a bench of five judges of the Supreme Court of India scrapped article 377 of the IPC decriminalizing homosexuality. Following this, several associations and churches came out with statements stating their position.
Against this backdrop, The Morung Express interacted with the LGBT community in Nagaland to get a glimpse of their ‘lived experiences.’ In this episode, we bring to you ‘What it’s like to be transgender in Nagaland, – their aspirations and dreams and their everyday struggles.
Away from the honking and the dust of the main road in Super Market, the Guardian Angel office stood obscurely in a small lane, its walls and gate adorned by bougainvilleas. This tiny, dimly lighted office has become a refuge to many over the years.
One afternoon, we met with the group in small room filled laughter. Inatoli Chophy of the Guardian Angel explained “this is the only place where they can be fully themselves and many of them are meeting after a long time” and hence the noises and laughter.
Dreams and aspirations
They consider themselves as dreamers and dream of things people take for granted every day.
“I want to be like Mother Teresa. I want to help people just like the Mother did if the society would allow me to,” one of the transgender sighed. Kindness and charity are kindred spirits.
Another responds to that wishful thinking. “You already are Mother Teresa to us…” and there is an unusual spell of silence in the room in the otherwise very lively laughter laden atmosphere.
Another wants to be a police and the reason? “Then I can protect people who are always neglected and discriminated.”
Someone comments “imagine a TG in police uniform” and this time the room erupts into a thunderous laughter. We have to wait for the laughter to settle down before we can continue with the conversation.
Transgender have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex. But most of the TGs wonder as to why they should be classified as different. “God created us this way” is the response repeated by everyone.
Often transgender are compelled to leave home for fear that their family would be ostracized and abused because of them but is the family ensuring the safety of the TGs? – A pressing question to ponder.
“On sleepless nights, I try to picture my mother’s face in my mind and wonder if I will be able to see the face of the women who gave birth to me if she dies suddenly” is the heart rending word from one TG.
TG people are often shooed and shouted at. “People tell me not to come near their house or children saying I will pass on the sickness to them. It makes me think if they give birth to a TG, will they still treat us the same way.”
Tongpang L Jamir, Advocate and Master Trainer, Nagaland State Legal Services Authority (NALSA), explains that family of TGs tries to keep them in the societal prescription of man/woman as long as they can.
The moment they start asserting their identity, they are often driven out of home. Left with no choice, the usually very young TGs take up begging or prostitution to eke out a living. “How long will they sustain in this way, and we need to focus on their economic sustainability”, he adds.
Apart from the social apathy, police often harass them. Public toilet is one site where TGs often get harassed. A TG revealed that while trying to explain about harassment, a policeman retorted “Don’t go to the public toilet.”
Doctors are no different, Jamir alleges. “Often TGs at hospitals are met with discriminatory comments. What are you doing in a ladies/gents ward?”- With sneers. When asked about their experiences in hospitals, one of the TG exclaims, “I am always apprehensive of going to the hospital, therefore I come to Guardian Angel for regular check up and counseling.”
NGOs and trust run medical clinics and support centers appear to be the only link between transgender and the larger community in Nagaland. ‘Guardian Angel’ has a small office which provides medical facility and social support through counseling and peer support to the LGBT community.